Zac Purton has six meetings to bridge the gap on Joao Moreira and waiting for him at the end of what he hopes is a fruitful period will be the plum ride aboard California Spangle in the Classic Cup.

Purton replaces Matthew Chadwick on Tony Cruz’s rising star after he finished a half-length second to Romantic Warrior in last weekend’s Classic Mile.

“It’s good to get back on him, I thought he ran a really good race. Obviously the jump from 1,200m to 1,600m was a big step for him and he drew the outside gate and there was a bit of pressure in the race early, so I thought he did a really good job,” said Purton, who has won aboard the son of Starspangledbanner twice, including his most recent success on January 16.

“But 1,600m is a different beast to 1,800m and 2,000m so he’s going to continually get tested as he steps up, but he’s obviously a very exciting horse and it’s good to be on him.”

Joao Moreira takes commanding title lead into suspension, John Size hits the front in trainers’ race

California Spangle led for all but the final 40m of his first attempt at a mile and Cruz is confident his charge will handle the step up to nine furlongs for the second leg of the four-year-old series on February 27.

One galloper who won’t be lining up in the Classic Cup is Packing Victory, with Danny Shum Chap-shing’s galloper to undergo a wind operation after being deemed a roarer following his last-place finish under Purton in the Classic Mile.

Senor Toba remains on track for the second leg of the Classic Series, however, with Caspar Fownes confirming his galloper is fine after a lame left hind saw the Queensland Derby runner-up scratched from Thursday’s Class Two Fat Choi Handicap (1,800m) at Sha Tin.

Moreira was booked to ride Senor Toba on Thursday and will return from a six-meeting suspension for the Classic Cup fixture, with the jockey to decide in the coming days which four-year-old he will partner.

The Brazilian headed off into his ban for failing to ride out Zone D at Happy Valley last month with a treble on Thursday, meaning Purton finds himself 18 winners adrift of his arch-rival.

Purton has managed only seven victories from 56 rides as he returns to full fitness following his fall in the Hong Kong Sprint, striking at 12.5 per cent since his return compared to 21 per cent for the season, but is confident he can significantly bridge the gap in the Magic Man’s absence.

“I hope so but my horses are not running that well at the moment. I’m all right, the wrist is all right – it’s no problem. I just have to find some faster horses,” said Purton, confirming he will ride Waikuku in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup and More Than This in the Gold Cup on February 20.